Photo: NZ Youth Choir, David Squire conducting, Hawke’s Bay Opera House, April 2012 – photo: Tony Speakman
New Zealand Youth Choir hits new highs
Hawke’s Bay Today
Concert by the NZ Youth Choir
Directed by David Squire
HB Opera House, Hastings, Saturday, April 21
Reviewed by Peter Williams
There has been a changing of the guard in the choir with this, the first concert under its new music director, David Squire, who was appointed to follow former long-time director Karen Grylls.
Change of director certainly but no diminution of quality. Residents from Otago to Auckland, these 45 talented, auditioned young singers, aged from 18 to 25, meet for a just a couple of weeks a year, plus some regional rehearsals.
An astonishingly high standard of performance was always maintained; the dedication, discipline, concentration and pleasure gained from singing together was always in evidence.
The programme was uncompromising in its requirements to reach a satisfying performance. The ever-changing idiom of each item seemed to be assimilated with ease – from the opening complex contrapuntal motet Musica Musarum, sung from the opera house boxes and conducted from the gallery by assistant music director James Tibbles, to the very serious cycle Vier doppelchörige Gesänge by Schumann, and a highlight of the programme, the very moving rendition of the Five Negro Spirituals from A Child of Our Time by Michael Tippett.
There was a welcome emphasis on music by New Zealand composers in the second part of the programme – the spectacular setting of the Magnificat by former choir member Andrew Baldwin, Hawke’s Bay composer Stephen Lange’s very original sounding He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, Palmerston North composer Helen Caskie’s five light-hearted songs Ten Cent Mixture, the rollicking NZ folk song settings by Douglas Mews and David Hamilton’s exciting Didn’t it Rain – each with its own special character convincingly projected.
Diction throughout was almost always exemplary, maintenance of pitch in a whole programme sung a capella, embracing multiple parts, extended discords and obscure interval combinations, was hugely impressive – all a great credit to the singers and those who train them.
There was one inspiring guitar-accompanied item to end the concert – a Youth Choir signature tune, Wairua Tapu, beautifully sung, together with the elegant movement of sign language.
Items were enhanced by some fine solo passages from within the choir and by the excellent spoken introductions from James Tibbles and vocal consultant Morag Atchison. Acknowledgment was made of the sponsors who support the choir, which seems certain to maintain the brilliant success of previous Youth Choirs achieved over the past 30-plus years.